Sanctification: The Law of the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

In this post we will look at Paul’s “therefore” he placed in the passage above. In other words, in Romans 8:1 Paul begins an important summary and conclusion which is related to his preceding arguments. We normally find that argument in the passages directly preceding the “therefore.” However, this “therefore” introduces the staggering results of all Paul’s teachings in the first seven chapters of Romans, which would include justification by faith alone on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace. 

Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ. (Romans 8:1 GNT)

Nothing then is there now condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 – word for word translation from Koine Greek to English)

The “therefore” in the ESV is coming from the Greek particle ἄρα or ara, which denotes, first, transition from one thing to another by natural sequence; secondly, logical inference; in which case, premises are either expressed or to be variously supplied. It is translated in the New Testament as therefore, then, consequently, and as a result. The word translated as “no” in the ESV and “Nothing” by me is οὐδὲν the accusative, singular form of οὐδείς or oudeis, which is a very good word to use here to describe “absolutely nothing.” However, this whole phrase swings on the word “now,” which is the word νῦν or nyn, which indicates the “present time, now.” The following is a quote from Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words page 474:

Understanding nyn is important theologically because it is used to reveal the current status of a Christian’s relationship with God. This comes through one of the most blessed phrases in the Bible, “but now.” The full implication of the gospel was hidden for ages, but now it is it is revealed that through Jesus Christ the promises are given to the Gentiles along with Israel (Eph. 3:5). Therefore, those in Christ are “now” lights in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). Paul explains that even as Gentiles were once enemies of God but now receive mercy because of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah, so Israel is now disobedient so that they may now receive the same mercy offered to the Gentiles (Romans 11:30-32). Similarly, 1 Pet. 2:10 assures that , “once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have receive mercy” (cr. 2:25, “for you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and overseer of your souls”). Christians are called to a holy life because of grace “now” revealed through the appearing of the Savior (2 Tim. 1:10). Those in Jesus Christ are now justified by his blood and also now have received reconciliation (Rom. 5:9, 11)…

What about that word “condemnation”? I heard Steve Furtick sorta preach on this passage the other day and his usage of this word was that this was that internal voice inside “condemning” us or making us feel guilty for not being “good enough” et cetera. Of course, Furtick and the rest of the emergent’s concept of grace is at best confused. The more they try to run from what they call “fundamentalism,” the more they find themselves being pinned down by legalism because they reject the clear teaching from God’s Word about grace and law. This word is κατάκριμα or katakrima, which means to divide, separate, judge. With the suffix of μα, which we have here, this is actually the result of judgment. This is a condemnatory judgment. It is only found in Romans 5:16, 18, and 8:1. In any case, Paul is telling us here that those in Christ have no condemnation from God. Why?

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:2-8 ESV)

Why did Jesus, who is God the Son, come in the flesh? It was to bear the sins of those He came to save. He did succeed. This is why there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Paul makes some very interesting statements in this passage. Those truly in Christ walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. After that he makes comparisons. Paul is talking about the mind-set of those in Christ in comparison to those who are not. The regenerate have a different set of affections, mental processes and direction of the will than the natural man. The unbeliever’s basic disposition is to satisfy the cravings of their unredeemed flesh. Those whose minds are set on the flesh are hostile to God because they are spiritually dead, therefore, those truly in Christ have minds that are not set on the flesh and they are not hostile to God because they have been baptized into Christ and belong to Him.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:9-11 ESV)

As I listen to the emergents give their reasons for their theology of unbelief and Christian agnosticism, I know that they would simply scoff at this study and say that I am just a Biblical literalist and we have no ability to really understand the Bible. Well, you know, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you, then you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit and that means that He will guide you into all truth and help you to see and understand God’s Word. When I see these people try to say they are the real “christians” who doubt and are full of unbelief and we are all a bunch of legalists because we can read and understand God’s Word, teach it and preach it, then I know that what we are dealing with there are people who are desperately religious, but they do not know my Lord nor does His Spirit dwell in them because, if He did, they would understand and see.

Soli Deo Gloria!

7 thoughts on “Sanctification: The Law of the Spirit

  1. Pingback: Living a Victorious Christian Life

  2. Good article Mike. This leads me to what I’ve come across Francis Chan recently. There are some people who claim Francis Chan is basically preaching good teachings although he is gimmicky. But I believe his methodology is humanist, and he teaches everything that “we do to God to merit favours from Him”. Am I correct in this?


  3. Thanks Joel, can you give me an example of something Francis Chan has said like this. I haven’t heard him or read anything by him. In any case, if that is what he is teaching I would have a problem with it too.


  4. Chan is the author of the book “Crazy Love” and I believe he rubs shoulders with the missional church. This is an excerpt from his “Crazy Love” book:

    Click to access CrazyLove-ChapterSample.pdf

    The whole book seems permeated to “what I can do to surrender to God”, it is all “me, me, me” to me rather than well and truly trusting and resting in Jesus’s finished work on the cross.


  5. Excellent post, brother – thank you!

    These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:13-16


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